Updated on 08.28.14

Getting Started With A Home, Garage, and Garden

Trent Hamm

20 Essential Tools

From the day I left home shortly after my eighteenth birthday, I have never lived in any place that had a garage, had any reasonable storage space, or that didn’t have a landlord to fix problems. Thus, I never had much need for tools. I used to thoroughly enjoy doing small household tasks and working on cars with my father when I was younger and I plan on doing such things again after we are settled into the house, but I have no tools.

Thankfully, to remedy this, I have been hoarding a couple of Home Depot gift cards, and my father wants to go along to help me select the items after I move, so I’ve been working on an “essentials” list of things I would like to acquire for the home and garage to enable me to do most home repairs myself without panicking and calling a repairman when simple things go wrong. Quite honestly, for tiny things around our apartment, I mostly just use my pocket Leatherman and thus we don’t have any tools at all.

If you have any additional suggestions, please leave them in the comments.

My List of Essentials

A toolbox

By this I mean a small, portable box to carry the things I need for most tasks around with me to where they’re needed. I already have one that will work for a while – it’s the one I had in high school for shop class that still resides in the loft at my parents’ house.

A tool chest

Similarly, I’ll have more things than the toolbox will be able to hold, so the extras go in here. I already know where I can get one of these very inexpensively, so this isn’t a major expense, either.

A 16 or 20 foot tape measure

I’ve actually longed for one of these many times in the apartment and now that we’re moving I can see countless uses for one.

A variety of screwdrivers

I use the four options on my Leatherman most of the time, but having a few quality screwdrivers (and an Allen wrench that isn’t made out of aluminum and bendable by my bare hand) would be fantastic.

A pair of needlenose pliers

Essential for any tight space or dealing with anything small.

A corded drill

We have a cordless drill already that I hate with the fury of a thousand suns – it dies almost every time I start using it. Give me a corded drill – it’s lighter and doesn’t die on you.

An electronic stud finder

We have one of these that’s very cheap and isn’t… reliable. I’ve long ago learned my lesson on this – find a good one that works and you’ll be far happier over the long run.

A short torpedo level

Infinitely useful when leveling all sorts of things around the house. We have an enormous one that’s just unwieldy.

A wrench set

A nice variety of sizes and of sturdy construction – I’ve bent cheap ones before.

A ratchet set

Similarly, a variety of sizes and of sturdy construction.

A wire cutter and stripper

I had one of these in my college dorm room when I was heavily into rewiring stereos and stuff – I can see lots of potential uses for one around the house.

An electrical tester

Is this live? I need to know before I do anything stupid.

Vise grips

I used to borrow my father’s small one all the time when doing different things in junior high and high school, especially related to fixing my bicycle.

A claw hammer

We have one that I intensely dislike, so I’ll be replacing it with one with a smooth head, a steel shaft, a rip claw (not a curved one!), and a rubber grip.

A step ladder

Our entryway has a twelve foot high ceiling with a light at the top. A step ladder will be required for that, if nothing else.


A wide variety of nails are essential, especially when you walk into an empty house and have a ton of stuff that you are going to hang.

A wheelbarrow

We’re going to garden and compost. A wheelbarrow is basically a requirement for this. I also desperately want a compost bin, but it’s not quite a requirement, and also a small tiller.

A shovel

Again, for the garden, but also for a few other uses, too. Amazingly, the place we’re moving to already has a boxed-in garden of pretty good size, which means we’re going to likely also need a few other garden implements to be determined later.

Pruning shears

There’s an assortment of bushes and shrubs around the house that will have to be kept up.

A lawnmower

Last but not least… *sigh*

Are there any major items that we’re overlooking that a homeowner might need or find strongly useful? Please let me know in the comments!

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  1. paul says:

    The only other thing I would suggest would be a workbench of some kind. Never can have too much space to work on something.

  2. Chris says:

    Hey Trent, you’ve got a great list going there so far. I would think about adding a couple of things: a lawn rake, a few garden hoses, sprinklers unless you have underground sprinklers installed already, a weed whacker, oh..and last but not least…a lawn gnome. Gnomes have been known to protect a yard from gophers. Haha, hope that was helpful!

  3. guinness416 says:

    I’d add a shop vac to that list. A really good flashlight. Also a grill and associated tools of course. And you will end up buying a ton more stuff for the garden – everything from weed killer to twine to fertilizer to varied other large and hand tools. Our first year with a new house I think we sent the local hardware guy’s kids to college.

  4. Ben says:

    I know the feeling of not having / needing any tools. My partner and myself are in the process of purchasing the house we are living in, and we have some grand plans to renovate the bathroom etc.

    Having been around to our local Bunnings, seeing the price of power tools is high (for the quality brand name ones). Yet down at Supercheap Auto, you could buy 5 tools for the price of one quality tool.

    If a quality drill is $100 and a cheaper one with 12 months warranty is $25, I could afford to break 4 of them before it was worth while purchasing a quality one. But in purchasing a cheaper one I can afford to buy 4 more tools to use and get the job done cheaper by doing the majority of the work myself.

    In your situation with hand tools such as spanners and screwdrivers, go with the best quality you can afford (within reason) as cheap hand tools can damage nuts and bolts.

    Great Blog, It’s one of the only… actually it is the only blog I read daily…

  5. David Kuck says:

    Don’t discount cordless drills based on your one experience. My dad has run his carpentry business and built his house with a cordless drill. If you get a good one, it will last and is just as powerful as a corded one. It’s also very excellent in places where you can’t easily run an extension cord. Also, the batteries will recharge in under 20 minutes now.

    I’d also recommend a rubber mallet. Sometimes you need to bang on something but don’t want to damage the trim or whatnot.

    Not required, but a rollaround jack and jackstands work great if you plan on doing any maintenance on your cars by yourself.

  6. kim says:

    Check with your town recycling station about a compost bin. My dad got one very inexpensively. It’s black plastic and looks and smells better than the homemade versions.

  7. Talisker says:

    You should add some sort of a saw in there. Best bet is to have a hacksaw and, if you are doing any wiring or plumbing repairs, a drywall saw. And if you are cutting into the drywall, you’ll need a putty knife.

    You should look at a 25 or 50 foot tape measure. 16 or 20 feet is just too short for most things.

    You need a basic set of drill bits, too. It’s better to drill pilot holes if you are putting an anchor in the wall.

    You did remember wall anchors, didn’t you?

    And you’ll probably need some sort of edger, like a string trimmer or a blade of some sort.

    If you are gardening, you’ll need a hoe, a good shovel, a rake, a gardening trowel, and a weeding tool.

    What you really need is a friend or neighbor who has a good collection of power tools.

  8. Talisker says:

    Oh, and duct tape and WD-40.

    As the saying goes: If it is moving and it shouldn’t be, use duct tape. If it isn’t moving and it should be, use WD-40.

  9. Paul says:

    A couple of good heavy duty extension cords. Also, if you are planning to do projects with power tools in the garage, look into a retractable extension cord you can mount on the ceiling (the garage door opener should be plugged into a receptacle with an available socket.

  10. Marcus Murphy says:

    Along with nails I would get some drywall anchors, essential for hanging mirrors wall cabinets in the like. A pitchfork for the compost bin, much more efficient than a shovel (if you deem your time worth the cost of one). If you are going to build a 3 bin system (most efficient compost ready to use in 3 weeks) you will need a saw (hand or circular), carpenter’s square, tin snips, bit set, galvanized wire mesh (to make the compost screen). I can send you some instructions I have if you are really that interested in building one. ~Marcus

  11. Amy says:

    My best tip for tool purchasing is to wait until you are nearly ready to start the project that you need the tool for before you buy it. I have wasted a lot of money over the years buying tools that I assumed I would need — and then never ended up using. Also, it never hurts to borrow a tool for the first use or two, to give you a feel for what like before you invest.

  12. Beth says:

    Also, remember the power of community. I bought a (cordless) drill for an apartment project, then found out that at least one person I knew owned one and would have loaned theirs to me. I practically forced a friend to borrow mine, so now it’s been used exactly twice. Borrow if you can, so long as you’re willing to replace it if something happens (of course).

  13. Matt says:

    I noticed you only mentioned needlenose pliers. I would get a pair of regular ones as well, one medium sized and one small. They’re among the most versatile tools you can get.

    Also, something to keep in mind with the drill. Most cordless drills are made for both drilling and use with screwdriver attachments. Not so with most corded drill. There’s a certain inertia that makes it a poor choice for use with screws.

  14. A corded drill We have a cordless drill already that I hate with the fury of a thousand suns – it dies almost every time I start using it. Give me a corded drill – it’s lighter and doesn’t die on you.

    Preach it, brother!

  15. Mardee says:

    You really don’t need a compost pile to have compost – you can compost effectively just by making a pile in a back corner of your yard. Granted, it’s not the fastest way of making compost but it does work – and you can speed things up a bit by adding some nitrogen. If you do want to contain it, one simple, inexpensive and maybe even free method is to use 4 wooden pallets. Just screw or nail 3 sides together, then hinge the 4th side and create some kind of easy way to close it, like wire. There are some really good books on composting using a variety of hand-made containers that you can probably find at the library.

    Don’t forget a hose for the garden, and buy a good one. Cheap ones get knotted up quickly and drive you crazy.

  16. paula says:

    I second the flashlight. I suggest that your wife also have her own tools. After years of trying to find proper tools among my husband’s messy workbench, I got myself tools designed for my own hands. I have a smaller hammer, slender screwdrivers, needlenosed pliers, a couple of wrenches, and I keep it all in a sturdy wooden box (size of a shoebox) in my kitchen pantry.

    For the garden, I couldn’t get along without a garden fork, a transplanting shovel (which is narrow and twice as long as your ordinary shovel), and a “Hula hoe” (which has an opening in it), as well as the ordinary shovel and pruning shears. We also use several other kinds of pruning saws, and we believe fervently in maintaining our trees with yearly or twice-yearly pruning. (Learn how to prune trees from gardening books, and that way you have to leave only the major pruning jobs for the experts). Also get a garden rake, which is useful for preparing planting beds and for planting seeds.

    For hand tools: Felco pruners, a dandelion weeder, another fork (about 3 inches wide, four inch tines), and a small hoe. Some people really like a small trowel or two. I also find a child’s rake useful for getting around shrubs and in the perennial bed.

    I think that the small hand tools are more critical for the maintenance of a suburban garden than the shovels and things, because you can’t put annuals and other bedding plants in with the big tools. (It’s like taking a sledghammer to a picture hook.) Plan your purchases with an eye to both micro and macrogardening.

    A tiller is a luxury that I have used on one occasion for a big remodeling job, but otherwise we use donkey labor. However, I have raised beds with good soil, so my situation may be different from yours.

    You DON’t need a compost bin to compost! Composting is EASY and FREE! Anyone can make compost in a little space if they are patient. Just find a spot in the yard, throw your coffee grounds and banana peels on it every day or so, throw a forkful of soil or already made compost on top of it, and that’s the start of your compost pile. Over time, you can water it, turn it, add to it, sift it, anything at all, or nothing at all. If you put your kitchen wastes in a pile for only a week and then forget all about it for a year, you’ll find you have a small pile of lovely compost. As you get into it, you can research optimum mixes of green and brown matter, stacking bins, rolling bins, or even under-the-sink bins (a book, “Worms Eat My Garbage,” explains this approach). But think easy and just do it! You’ll be too busy getting the house in shape and the garden weeded to think too hard about composting bins right now anyway.

    I’ve heard of town recycling stations that offer compost bins. What a terrific idea! I wish we had that where I live.

    Incidentally, we put off getting a studfinder for years and years (like, say 30 years). The one we bought is unreliable. My husband has gone back to the “tap the wall until it sounds right” method.

  17. Jenn says:

    Various adjustable pliers/wrenches. They are my most frequently used tool. You also might as well get a bigger tape measure. I also recommend a shop light that you can stand up or clip to things… very handy for painting and lots of other fix-it jobs. You are going to need a ladder that can reach the ceiling, probably sooner rather than later… trash cans… a rake… a utility broom… a hose and spray nozzle… the list is endless, I know :) You have to start thinking of tools as a real investment at this point too, so don’t just choose the cheapest stuff you can find. If it doesn’t work well, you might be stuck with it for a long time.

  18. Tim says:

    Buy quality stuff. You do pay more, but having been in the landscaping industry and now construction I can tell you that they will pay dividends. Makita, Bosch, Dewalt, etc for power tools. Craftsman for wrenches and whatnot. Felco and Fiskars for pruning and lawn tools. Honda lawnmowers. Stihl chainsaws. Echo string trimmers. I could go on.

    And do use those HD gift cards, but frequent the local lumberyard and hardware store. Their selection may be a bit pricier, but it’s worth it when you have a problem and need help. They can often repair onsite and are more willing to do so when you originally purchased things there.

    Again, invest in your tools. You will thank yourself for it.

  19. Jim Kane says:

    Unless your yard has no borders, you’ll probably need an inexpensive string trimmer. $35 should get you a serviceable electric trimmer that can also be pressed into service as an edger.

  20. Kitty says:

    Power washer. My favorite tool of all time.

  21. Dave says:

    As a total tool junkie (huge debt incurred there actually!) I’d add a million things to your list, but one thing I wanted to point out was please don’t waste your money on a “circuit tester,” buy a real name brand digital multimeter (*cough* Fluke *cough*). What the home depot sells as an electrical tester is a light bulb in a yellow plastic case, it’s good for nearly nothing. A multimeter that can read ac and dc, as well as resistance and current readings will do the same thing and plenty more, if you ever want to do any electrical work in your car it’s a necessity, so just buy it now and forget the blinkie lights kind. I don’t know if that’s what you meant by a tester or not, but I thought I’d throw that out there, that those cheap ones even exist drives me nuts.

  22. mjc says:

    This is why I live in a condo :).

    “I went to the Home Depot, which was unnecessary. I need to go to the Apartment Depot. Which is just a big warehouse with a whole lot of people standing around saying “We don’t have to fix anything.” – Mitch Hedberg

  23. Darrell says:

    As others have said, don’t discount cordless drills. I found a cheap Dewalt 18V hammer drill, reciprocating saw, circular saw, and light on eBay ($300 total and practically brand new, when retail is at least twice that), and I’ve never even used my corded ones. High end tools are expensive, but they’ll literally last a life time, take any beating you can throw at them, and still work great (I’d highly recommend Dewalt, by the way).

    I’ve learned time and time again not to skimp on tools, either the power or hand variety.

  24. avlor says:

    After consulting my hubby this is what we’d add to what has already been said.

    – Wood glue. I’ve been amazed at how many times we use the stuff.
    – volt meter
    – quick clamps
    – fold up saw horses
    – steel ruler (3 or 4 feet)
    – bolt cutter
    – dremel kit
    – sand paper
    – skill saw
    – circular saw

  25. Neil says:

    Some sound advice here already, but I’d suggest renting tools like the tiller instead of buying. You may only need this tool once per year, so why lay out so much cash out front, then have to find a place to store it, have to maintain it, and worst of all, see next years newer and better model…

    Also, the best advice of all came from Amy…other than the basic tools which everyone needs, buy them only as you need them. Then buy good quality.

  26. Kathryn says:

    Socket wrenches must be a guy thing. My husband’s got several, I’ve never had any use for them, and I do a fair amount of DIY stuff for a grrrrrrl. I definitely second the recommendation for circular saw, though.

    The other grrrrl recommendation is to have a set consisting of lightweight hammer, 2-3 screwdrivers, and a pair of slip-joint pliers to keep in a convenient spot inside (kitchen ‘junk drawer,’ e.g.), so you don’t have to run out to the big ole tool box in the garage every time you need to fiddle with a screw on the back of your TV or hang a picture.

  27. Jeff says:

    Took a home handyman class once and the teacher recommended a convertable screwdriver, mine has a shaft that pulls out of the handle and switches with a bit in each end. The bit has two blades phillips and straight. So you get 4 screwdrivers in one. I have never gone back to the screwdriver sets since buying one of these.

    I also agree with the comment on the workbench. I built my first one with lumber I salvaged from a construction site (dumpster diving). It worked great.

  28. melanie says:

    We’ve found many of our household tools (screwdrivers, hammer, pliers, etc) at estate sales for very little money. The rest we buy on an as-needed basis. I second the suggestion of two tool boxes. I have my own in the house so I don’t have to run out to the garage when I’m sick of waiting for my husband to fix something ;)

  29. S. B. says:

    If you buy an older house…one word: caulk!

  30. Joe L says:

    Instead of getting a set of screwdrivers consider getting one that let you swap out the tips and can ratchet. Ever since I got one of those, my other screwdrivers have been gathering dust.

  31. Andrei says:

    First of all please accept my congratulations on buying a house.
    Your list and suggestions in the comments are pretty extensive. If you plan on freshening up paint – paint roller, paint brushes (at least two widths), paint pan with liners, edging pad, extendable pole, canvas or plastic tarp. Drywall work will require a putty knife (4 and 8 or 10 inches wide). Get a steel one, plastic ones are worthless. The rest you can get on as-needed basis just as it was mentioned above.
    Consider some sort of peg board or other organizing system for the tools in the garage.

  32. Lee2706 says:

    I recommend gaffer tape in various widths. They don’t leave residue like duct tape and are easier to tear. You can use wide widths to tape down the electrical cords to help prevent folks from tripping.

    I bought an eye hoe from a local brick-and-mortar. Basically, it’s a heavyweight version of the blade and you attach the handle yourself. I found it quite useful in my garden.

  33. corey says:

    Great list! I’ve been wanting to write a piece like this for a while but couldn’t keep it simple enough, well done.

  34. When I was young and my parents moved into their first house… we didn’t have a lawnmower. They made my brother and me get on our hands and knees with scissors and cut the grass. It was so embarrassing that the neighbors finally came outside and mowed the lawn for us.

  35. Vincent says:

    You may want to consider a quality reel mower. Depending on your yard, reel mowers use no gas and do a better job of actually cutting the grass–each blade of grass gets individually cut, as opposed to hacked off as is the case with most rotary blade and gas-powered motors.

    Besides that, no gas needed! It’s quiet, it’s clean, and modern reel mowers are far easier to use than you’d think. A good quality one is a little more expensive than a cheap-to-mid-priced gas-powered mower, but you of all people know the pros and cons of TCO. With gas the way it is, these mowers pay for themselves quickly if you mow every week, besides the significantly lower maintenance costs.

  36. Nariman says:

    You need a grill! It may not be important for fixing things around the house, but it is one of the most important tools for enjoying your new house. :-)

  37. Elden says:

    You will need a regular square or T-square or some sort of strait edge.

  38. Kelley says:

    Wow! You have a lot of great suggestions here. :) One thing I didn’t see (or maybe missed) is about the step ladder. I’m all of 5’2″. I can’t reach the top shelf in my kitchen cabinets. So when it comes to cleaning the ceiling fans I have to have a ladder.

    My husband installs security alarms and needed a ladder for work. He bit the bullet and bought one of those adjustable Gorilla ladders. I love this thing! Yes, it was over $100 but I think it’s worth it. It’s sturdy, can be adjusted for stairs, and can get me high enough to reach our 12′ ceilings. If you can afford it, get it. It’ll be worth your money in the long run.

    Don’t forget the teflon tape!!!

  39. Coats says:

    All of these comments, and no one has mentioned the need for a good toilet plunger? I’m not being facetious here…I’ve dealt with more plumbing problems than anything else.

  40. Stef says:

    My husband also bought a cheap cordless drill that was an absolute waste of money. He has since invested in a Makita drill and absolutely loves it. My father has been a carpenter for over 30 years and swears by his Makita drill. They might cost a bit more in the beginning, but they’ll save you a lot of frustration.

    The only other suggestion that I can add is to ditch the stud finder. We have one that is useless. Unfortunately, we weren’t smart enough to ask my dad first. He gave up on them years ago. They are glorified metal detectors, and if you don’t come across a nail, it will not find the stud. The “knock ’till it sounds right” method works just as well for us. Hope this helps!
    Best wishes in your new home!

  41. Sarah says:

    Welcome to one of the largest categories of ‘unforeseen expenses’ of home ownership. You don’t need a traditional toolbox or a toolchest – they’re never the right size, or too heavy – besides there are so many ‘essential’ tools now that your greatgrandfather didn’t dream of. I would also not bother with pegboard – the pegs are fiddly. 5 gallon buckets – start collecting them from grocery stores and delis, usually for free. Look for cheap/free shelving options for the garage/workshop – can’t have enough. Hang canvas drop cloths on the front of shelves to keep things less dusty – then you also have them for use. That workbench needs a vise. Finally, for outright tool storage/organization, I love the industrial shelving unit sold with bins at Sam’s Club. You can sort your tools into the bins by type of job (drywall patching, electrical, drilling, plumbing, hammering, etc) and then each bin is a mini-toolbox that isn’t too heavy for your future five-year-old to go get for you. Because you labeled them, right? The whole shelving unit is even on wheels. And buy a real ladder, not a stepladder. Much safer.

  42. Tyler K says:

    Grill seconded, it’s my most important tool.

    Also, where do you live? If it’s someplace more northern, you’ll want to have a snow shovel and maybe some rock salt/sand/etc on hand before the first snowfall. (Easy to forget about during the spring/summer.)

  43. Anita says:

    If you’re living in Iowa, you will probably need a snow blower or a couple of good snow shovels and a bag of sand and/or salt.

    I’d imagine now would be a good time to start shopping for a snow blower before you need it, to get the best deal.

    I’d also suggest keeping some good superglue or loctite in your toolbox. And don’t forget the WD-40!

    To Kathryn about sockets: My boyfriend and I use them all the time when working on our cars.

  44. MaryBeth says:

    I don’t have a house of my own, but my dad is always collecting and using milk crates and 5-gallon buckets. And I don’t think he ever pays for them, unless he buys spackle or something. Oh yeah — and you might want some spackle and a putty knife and a little sandpaper. You can get a pretty small container that’s perfect for patching nail holes and the like.

    The other thing I learned from my dad is that it’s worthwhile to get a really good paint brush and take care of it. Good ones will last a lifetime.

  45. Sharon says:

    Wow, I love this site. You learn everything here!! Someday, in a couple of years, I’ll be looking at buying a house. Since the city I live in has very small lawns (I’ll be lucky if I can have 15’x15′) I wondered if the Reel Mowers still existed. Why agonize over a gas mower when it would take me longer to start the mower than to mow the grass…Sharon

  46. Jennifer says:

    To save your sanity, get one of the super inexpensive, lightwieght electric screwdrivers. There are so many little things you will want to put up that will drive you nuts with out one (i.e. curtain rods). This cuts 10-15 minutes off the simpiliest project and you can get one of these babies for under $15.00. It has saved my family from a barrage of cus words that would normally fall from my lips when installing all the minor conveniences of owning a home. Also, a cockgun comes in handy…I realized last winter my front windows were very drafty and having the right supplies handy kept us warm until I was able to replace the windows this spring. Not to mention the money it saved in lost electricity.

  47. Hannah says:

    Trent–once you’ve sifted through the comments, would you consider posting a revised list, perhaps prioritized into immediate, short-term, and long-term tool purchases? I’d love to see what you decide on.

  48. SueO says:

    My first thought is a regular straight ladder, but we live in a ranch style house and have the ability (and occasional necessity) to climb on the roof, so the 20′ ladder gets plenty of use.

    I second the vote of confidence for the Makita cordless products. My husband has three drills purchased both new and used. Often both are around with two different bits; one drill bit for making pilot holes the other for driving the screw. He also has an impact driver and a power stapler. I’ve used the power stapler myself for recovering dining room chairs and I now understand the glow that comes to men’s eyes when they use their power tools!

    Our recent discovery is that PowerGrab glue works great except for situations with water based paints.

    Stuff like the air compressor and the garden cart will come later, but borrowing/renting is always a great avenue to try first.

    Good luck and congrats on the new home purchase. Love the site.

  49. Tim says:

    Forget the drywall anchors / nails for hanging stuff on walls. I saw an ad for Hercules Hooks and added those to my wishlist. I got some (20) for Christmas and have been using them. They’re quick, have worked great, and only make a tiny hole in the drywall.

    They claim 150lb limit each, but, I don’t trust it. But, I used two and hung a 60″ x 24″ mirror (pretty heavy) and it seems strong and stable, even with a little tug.

    For picture frames, they’re real quick and easy, too!

  50. Gina says:

    Buy slowly and see what you REALLY need before you go out and spend a ton of money. Tools for a guy can be like shoes for a women– addictive to buy and often not used….

  51. Tim C says:

    I would sugegst not necessarily buying tools until you need them. You might not need a certain tool or tools for a while, and tools don’t sit around making you money, whereas money sitting around…well…does.

    Also, I’ve found tools are some of the the absolute best things to receive as gifts. When people don’t know what to buy you it’s very easy to give them specifics about what you could use for tools, and also they can pick tool(s) that fit anywhere within their price range. People will never run out of gift ideas either since it is often beneficial to have multiples of the same tool even (set of screwdrivers for the garage, kitchen, and car, for example).

  52. Cheryl says:

    GLOVES! If you are going to be gardening, get yourself some nice gardening gloves!! And, I highly recommend Sears Craftsman tools…they have a LIFETIME warranty…if it breaks,or won’t work, take it back and they give you a new one. No questions. I had a screwdriver that my dog chewed the handle off….they gave me a new one!!There is no substitute for quality, and craftsman makes nice tools…and they go on sale frequently, I got my drill for 50% off!

  53. wayne says:

    You need something to get things out of the garbage disposal – long hemostats or long needle nosed pliers (regular needle nosed won’t work), 16 ft tape measure is not long enough, dikes (diagonal pliers) – you can use these for cutting through most any type of wire, and the insane ties they package kids toys with, I prefer channel lock pliers to regular – more verstility, and get 2 vise grips – 1 large 1 small. And don’t forget a razor blade box cutter – I like the kind that you can break off the end of when they become dull. I get more mileage out of each of these few items than most all of the other tools I have combined.

  54. Rosie says:

    Forget the hoe. I swear by my “winged weeder” (http://www.wingedweeder.com). Also, you’ll want a good set of comfortable garden hand tools, and mud gloves for each of you (waterproof fingers/palm, knit back). For the messiest of house and garden chores, I keep a box of cheap one-use latex gloves under the kitchen sink. A box will last a long time.

    Composting can be done on the cheap, without a bin, as already described. You can also dig trenches (as needed) in your garden and bury your kitchen scraps (no meat or bones; chop everything up first and crush eggshells). You’ll need a small container for your kitchen to hold your scraps for the compost pile. There are some very expensive ones on the market, but the expense is more show than function. (Who really wants to carry a unhandled stoneware crock from the kitchen to the compost pile for each dumping? Come on!) You want the lid to close, but totally airtight is not essential (and seems to smell worse after a day or two). What I’ve finally found works best for me an itty bitty metal trash can with an attached metal lid and a plastic liner that can be pulled out. It came with my kitchen trash can (suppose they intended it for the bathroom) and is about 10″ tall. I splurge on biodegradable compost scrap bags (100 for $19.95 at http://www.gardeners.com) to make emptying much easier and save on cleanup. I run the plastic part through the dishwasher about once a month, and just rinse it after dumping in between. Am about to try cutting a carbon filter to pop in the top of the can, from material left over from cutting an AC filter to size. Think that will help with the odor when the can is opened to add material.

    When this pail rusts out, I’ve got my next one picked out — http://www.gardeners.com/Odor-Free-Compost-Pail/default/30-708.prd

    Congratulations, and good luck!

  55. Jeff says:

    I was going to recommend you get a reel mower, but I see Vincent already did so. I second his recommendation. I have been using one for about 5 years now; it works great. My lawn looks good (even the weeds are neatly clipped), and the absence of noise, dust, fumes, maintenance, and expense have made this one of the best garden tool investments I have ever made. At the time I bought it, it also cost less than a gas mower.

  56. Rob in Madrid says:

    What ever you please please don’t buy a gas lawnmower. Nothing runs a nice quiet weekend morning than the roar of chainsaw opps lawnmower. Unless of course you hate your neighbours. Buy an electric one or a hand powered one.

    Corded drills are so yesterday, get a good cordless one and you’ll never be bothered triping over the cord.

    What every you get buy quality, good tools can be passed on to your Grandkids.

  57. wayne says:

    I forgot to mention a “gator grip” socket (if you can still find them). I have 2. I can’t look at a bolt and instantly know what size socket I need, so the gator stays attached to my socket wrench all the time.

  58. Vincent says:

    I should have mentioned in my other comment—my dad has been a carpenter and handyman for most of his life, and he’s now 65. He’s used a lot of tools, and although he loves his corded, 30-year-old Makita power drill, he swears by DeWalt’s cordless products.

    They’re expensive, but worth the money. His current DeWalt battery-powered drill is nearly ten years old, and was used very frequently on construction sites. Their warranty is a strong one, and the equipment is rugged. Besides that, you can get a nice set, wherein the batteries are interchangeable; my father’s in particular came with a drill, an excellent saw, and a powerful flashlight with snaking neck, with two batteries (which last quite awhile on a single charge). All packs neatly into the included hard plastic case. They’re solid, powerful tools, and by the time I get my own house, it’s more than likely that my power tools of choice will also be DeWalt.

  59. Jim C says:

    I second Gina and Tim C’s advice.. Don’t get caught up in buying the new house and go spend a bunch of money on tools that you don’t need yet. Buy ’em as you need ’em. This will spread the expense out, and allow you to purchase better tools, as well. Buying tools because you feel you “have to have them, just in case” can be addicting. Avoid falling into that trap!

  60. As Norm Abraham is legally obliged to point out- there’s no more important rule than these:


    Safety glasses! Keep those peepers in one piece.

  61. Ken Girard says:

    On the subject of cordless drills/screwdrivers: I am currently in the final stages of building a 2 story 24*24 booth out at the local Renaissance Faire (and getting to be more all the time as i replace every loose nail with a screw). About 90% of it is put together using screws. I use a 19.2 volt Craftsman and can use it most of the day on one battery. I’ve got 2 batterries so I am never without power. Also, it only takes about 45 minute to fully recharge a battery.

  62. Anne says:

    In addition to estate sales, Craigslist.com can be a great place to buy tools! My husband went on the tool-buying spree after we bought our house last fall, and he was able to get more, and better quality, because he got many things through Craig’s List. It doesn’t hurt to look, and I’m always suprised at how often we can find what we need that way. Of course, make sure you know what to look for, so you can be sure you’re getting a good deal on it, and it’s not a dud.

  63. Mike Dunham says:

    Another vote for removing stud finder from the list.

    A splurge item of sorts to consider for the garden – brass quick-connects for the hose, the faucet, the sprinkler(s), the sprayer. Maybe a buck apiece, they’re a nice time-saver.

    2-3 5-gallon buckets. I can’t tell you why you need them, but if you have them, you’ll use them. Honest.

    I bought a Toro weed-eater that comes apart and has an edger attachment. There are a couple of other attachments you can buy, but I didn’t because I don’t need them. But I like that I bought essentially two tools for less than the two tools would separately have cost, and I’m betting the other attachments are all cheaper than their standalone counterparts.

    I don’t see “utility knife” on your list or in the comments so far, which boggles my mind. You can get a good one for about $9, and the blades are replaceable and cheap.

    As for “tool chest”, check yard sales or even local mechanics – folks upgrade and usually want to get rid of the old one because it’s smaller or a little dented, but it can be perfectly good enough for your purposes. I got mine free because a friend replaced his because one of the drawers wouldn’t close. My solution was to rip out the drawer and simply keep stuff in the open space like a shelf, and it works great.

    Congrats on the house!

  64. Machelle says:

    Congratulations on your new home!

    You’ll definitely want a flashlight and a toilet bowl plunger. Focus on what you might need for a middle-of-the-night emergency, or things you know you will need immediately (like a garden hose). Otherwise, I agree with the “buy it as you need it” gang. You will be better situated to make wise choices that way and get quality tools that last a long time.

    Good luck!!

  65. Thoglette says:

    As a number of people have stated: slow down!
    shovel, pliers, two screwdrivers, tape measure, drill, vicegrips, hammer and … adjustable or “crecent” wrench. Plus some wet-and-dry.

    Then buy as needed – noting that some things are better value in sets. And that tools, being numerous, can consume massive amounts of cash. Most of my time in stores is do-I-buy-the-$10-or-the-$50 dilemma. (Never buy the $1 version). It really comes down to tool lifetime and usage profile.

    I used to work with someone who’d call the Snap-On van every time he needed a spanner…geek jewelery (and yes, I own some).

  66. Susan says:

    Old-fashioned trash cans with tight-fitting lids, plastic or metal, sized for the 33 gallon lawn bags, are invaluable in the garage for anything you want to store pest-free and clean like a bag of dog food, a bag of potting soil, drop cloths, sports equipment, and outdoor work clothing.

  67. lin says:

    a very strong magnet for: finding studs, and picking up dropped nails.
    a plastic snow shovel – with an easy-on-the-back-handle – it’s easier to get thru the snow and lift it away…
    hard as nails: great for glueing and caulking.

  68. Cindy says:

    I haven’t read through all the responses so excuse me if I repeat anything already mentioned. For house tools, get some assorted washers and screws. Also a toolbelt may look dorky but is really very handy. For gardening, get a short tined garden rake, a metal leaf rake, a spading fork (for digging the garden and for turning and moving compost), and a hand trowel. If you buy Craftsman hand tools, they will replace them for life. (We’re on our third spading fork!) Depending on whether you need to bag your leaves, get either a tarp to haul them to the street on or one of the pop up buckets to use with bags (we got our for a $1 at a yardsale). Also a good idea to have a roll of bird netting to protect your seedlings when you first put them in the garden.

  69. BJ says:

    On the corded/cordless topic….

    My father used a Makita 9.6v cordless drill/screwdriver for years in his toilet partition business. It was a real labor/hassle saver for him. He had 2 batteries and they recharged faster than he could use them so he was never without power.

    He gave me the same drill ~12 years ago when my wife and I purchased our first house. I was stoked because it is a nice drill and worked great for him.

    But it has been 12 years of misery for me. Why?!

    I use the drill so infrequently that the batteries slowly drain while sitting in my workbench. So when I need the drill for a quick one-off situation, it’s almost always dead.

    The other problem is that without consistently using the battery all the way to complete exhaustion, it develops a memory and does not hold near the charge it used to.

    For me, I’ll never buy another cordless power tool because I need the reliability of knowing it’s going to work every time I need it to work.

  70. John Gallant says:

    Instead of an electric stud finder, get yourself a good magnet and run it along the wall in various places. You should be able to pick up the nails in the studs and bingo!, instant (and cheap!) stud finder. I’ve used this in the last few apartments I’ve been in without fail.

  71. sopitikoj says:

    Hi all!

    Well done, this site is really great. Just wanted to say hello, keep up the good work!


  72. reulte says:

    Buy quality tools at yard sales. We have some tools that are over 100 years old (my great-grandfather was a carpenter) that we still occasionally use. No cordless drills though.

    Moreover, buy quality tools with a lifetime guarantee (like Craftsman)at yard sales and trade them in for new.

    Most important — some sort of system so you don’t ‘lose’ the tool somewhere in the garage, go out and buy a new one, then find the original a week later.

  73. Emma says:

    My parents just use a rubbermaid container for their worm farm/compost bin. They found that (in Ohio) with the weather, that was about as big as they could go and still release the worms and the compost into the garden beds before they froze to death. They would stop putting fresh foods into the bin towards the end of August so the worms could get as much as possible done with it.

    If you are serious about worming, your easiest option (not the cheapest, but the most time-saving) is to start the setup before you get worms (my parents buy live bait worms from bait shops…it’s easier than trying to find enough after rain storms. Start the composting before you get the worms…they found that if you start with strips of newspaper (could also use recycled/organic paper if that’s a big deal for you), corn meal, and the usual compost-y stuff (coffee filters, veggie peels, etc.) and dampen it before putting in the worms, you shouldn’t have to wet it at all after that. Also, do not put in citrus or onions or peppers…they can burn your worms. The final note about worming is that you should never put in seeds if you can avoid it…unless you want 3 million cucumber plants coming up from the cucumber seeds that weren’t eaten, or a bunch of rogue cantaloupe plants.

    Good luck with the garden! Composting REALLY helps it grow faster.

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